May 5, 2022
Hello NAP Families,
We would like to use this community message to address the challenge of visit availability that has arisen over the past few weeks. The main driving force of this has been an increase in viral illnesses – surprise surprise, when masks came off, colds, flus, and of course COVID were able to circulate more freely. There is also an ongoing demand for mental health consultations and medication recheck appointments as we all cope with the stress of the pandemic, as well as a need for catch up well child visits that were deferred and newborn visits as a result of the COVID baby boom!
At NAP, we have always prided ourselves on our availability so it feels very hard to tell families they can’t be seen on a certain day or direct them to an urgent care, which we have had to do on occasion recently. Last week we had a meeting to determine the factors for our difficulty with meeting the demand for requested appointments and to come up with ways we plan to address them:
- Restriction on physical space: In the past, we had no separation of sick and well patients. This was great from a scheduling perspective – when a family called we could squeeze them in with any provider who had an open slot – but not so great from an infection control standpoint. Now that we have the VIP area and specific staff designated to work there, our ability to double and triple book patients is much more limited. To address this, we are moving forward with our transition of the VIP area to the front of the building where we will be able to flex between 2-6 rooms as needed depending on demand. Construction is underway and we look forward to using this more versatile space soon!
- Limited visit capacity: Each provider is going to be looking at our schedules to determine places we can fit in more appointments, either in the office or virtually, for a few hours on days that we are typically “off”. We are also going to open up both Saturday and Sunday weekend appointments for well child visits over the summer to make sure our patients are ready for school and sports in the fall.
- Same day vs PCP scheduling issues: Our scheduling team at NAP works tirelessly all day long to fit patients into our already packed schedule so that we can see as many children as possible on the day they need to be seen. Sometimes, a visit is scheduled for one of these “same day” slots that is not actually urgent (for example, a chronic headache that has been going on for months). These chronic or more complex visits are truly best seen by a child’s primary care provider who knows the history of the issue, knows the other medical history of the patient, and has a relationship with the family allowing for the development of a thoughtful plan for next steps. We ask that if you call for an appointment, please specify whether it is for an urgent issue that needs same day attention, or if it is something that can be scheduled for your primary care provider within a few days or weeks. This will ensure that you get the best care from the provider you know and trust, and the same day urgent slots will be left open for children who are having a medical issue that needs more immediate care.
- No shows for appointments: With our already limited number of available appointments, it has become much more difficult to reschedule appointments that are missed by a family. When someone “no shows” a visit, they are taking that slot from another family who needed an appointment that day, and also then rescheduling into a future slot that could have been used by someone else. We are going to start a process of tracking no show appointments and if we notice a pattern of this behavior, we will reach out to the family to determine the reason and try to help find a solution to prevent future missed appointments. We ask that you call us as soon as you realize you may not be able to come to your appointment. Even a few hours advance notice will allow our schedulers to fill those spots with other patients. We thank you for your help in solving this particular challenge.
- We need more providers!: NAP continues to grow with new patients joining our group daily. We love that we have a reputation in the community for excellent and compassionate care and appreciate all the positive feedback we hear from existing and new families that come to see us. In order to be able to see all patients who want to have their medical home at NAP, we are looking for more physicians and nurse practitioners to join our team. If you know of anyone in the area, or interested in relocating to the beautiful Pioneer Valley, who is trained in pediatrics, please send us their contact information! We know that NAP is a fantastic place to work and would love to speak with anyone interested about whether they could be a good fit here.
Thank you, as always, for your patience and understanding as we work to improve the care NAP provides to our community.
Northampton Area Pediatrics